The future matters when it suits us - Keith Roulston editorial
It’s interesting that politicians and ordinary voters often express concerns for future generations when it suits their argument, but ignore the plight of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren when it goes against their views.
Take the case of many conservatives (and Conservatives). When they look at deficit spending by Liberal and NDP governments, even to fight a cause like COVID-19 and its ramifications, they worry about the generations of taxpayers in the future who will eventually have to pay the bill for today’s spending.
When it comes to the repercussions of climate change, however, these same people often care only about cramping their current lifestyle if measures to avoid climate change are taken. They ignore warnings of dire consequences for future Canadians if we don’t take immediate action to reverse the build-up of greenhouse gases, which is raising the world temperatures.
At the recent conference of the federal Conservative Party, held virtually, a majority of delegates voted against a resolution that would have admitted that climate change is real. They prefer to continue to stick their heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening because it might mean painful changes. Meanwhile they ignore the pain that will be borne by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Party leader Erin O’Toole vowed that his party will have a policy to mitigate against the causes of climate change before the next federal election because he knows that many Canadians won’t vote for a party that isn’t ready to fight this existential danger.
Still, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last week that climate change is such an urgent problem that the federal government is justified in imposing a tax on carbon in those provinces that refuse to come up with their own price on carbon, O’Toole reiterated his pledge to cancel the tax if he’s elected.
Many economists and environmental experts say a carbon tax is one of the most efficient tools in changing our habits and reducing the creation of greenhouse gases. In fact while environmentalists accuse the government of Justin Trudeau of not doing enough on the climate change issue, the carbon tax is the one government policy they praise.
But if Conservatives worry about the financial consequences of deficits on future generations but not a harsher climate, “progressives” in the Liberal, New Democratic and Green parties are just the opposite. They worry tomorrow’s Canadians will pay the price for a more volatile climate but they don’t seem to think anything about borrowing money for today’s desires that future taxpayers will have to repay.
The mammoth debt the federal government has taken on to support people and businesses sideswiped by the lockdown of our society in order to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus should probably be a separate issue when it comes to deficit spending. This one-time debt we’ve taken on is more similar to the borrowing required to fight the Second World War: both are borrowing from the future to fight an existential threat.
But the Trudeau Liberals were already running up substantial deficits long before the pandemic hit in order to provide services they thought Canadians deserved. The NDP and Greens, meanwhile, were condemning them for not giving us even more goodies like universal pharmacare and dental coverage and free daycare from coast to coast.
Last week when the Ontario Progressive-Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford forecast a deficit of $33.1 billion for 2021-22, (down from $38.5 billion last year), NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said if she were premier she would have provided more money for long-term care, funded paid sick days, offered paid leave for workers to get a COVID-19 vaccination and built a new hospital in Brampton, among other good things. There was no word of how she’d pay for all this other than the long-time progressive idea that the rich should pay for services for the rest of us.
Ever since I heard of the First Nations’ seven-generation policy, I’ve thought it’s something that should be incorporated into Canadian society’s fabric. The concept is an ancient Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) philosophy that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.
What we have instead are current generations wanting to live comfortably, either through government services we’re not willing to pay for today, or through ignoring the uncomfortable changes we must make to combat climate change. It’s really a selfish way of life that thinks nothing of future generations, despite our invoking them to justify our political arguments.